From lava-bubbling volcanoes to colonial churches, Granada deserves a visit! Read my guide on the best things to do in Granada Nicaragua.
Granada is one of Nicaragua’s most visited cities. And it’s easy to see why. The city is charming, crime rate is low, and it’s the most developed and tourist-friendly place in the country. There are tons of great things to do in Granada Nicaragua, so you won’t leave this city disappointed.
Let’s take a look at what Granada has to offer.
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Things to do in Granada Nicaragua
Granada is a great city to spend a weekend or maybe even longer. We spent four days in Granada and got to do everything we wanted to.
A good thing about Granada is that everything is within close distance and it’s walkable. And speaking about walking…
You can easily see all the things to do in Granada on your own, but you can also opt for a walking tour. They are a great way to learn more about a place from a local and to discover spots you may otherwise not have heard of. They usually take 3-4 hours and cost $15-20.
1. Visit the colonial churches in Granada
As a Catholic country, Nicaragua has no shortage of beautiful churches.
Some of the most memorable churches include Iglesia de Guadalupe, Iglesia de La Merced and of course, the colourful Granada Cathedral.
2. Visit the mesmerizing Granada Cathedral
Granada Cathedral is a neoclassical Catholic cathedral from 1583. It has been destroyed many times since, and this version, built in 1915, has four chapels and a dozen stained-glass panels in the dome.
3. Walk the colourful streets
One of my favourite things to do in Granada was wandered the streets with my camera, snapping photos of the colourful houses and cute little streets.
The houses are old, but their colourful facades are so charming in traditional colonial style. I also felt safe walking here and didn’t experience any unwanted attention like in Leon.
4. Discover new fruits
One of the fun things to do in Granada Nicaragua include discovering new food and fruits. For instance, I’d never had plantains before I visited.
You can try much of the local food in restaurants, but the best place to explore the many varieties is at a local market. I saw at least 10 fruits that I’ve never seen before. My favourite from back home is avocados, and they’re both huge, delicious and cheap here.
5. See bubbling lava at Masaya volcano
Want to see real-life magma in a volcano?
At Masaya volcano, you can visit an active volcano up close without doing any hiking. Although you can visit both day and night, I highly recommend a night tour as the sight is much more spectacular in the dark.
Since Masaya volcano is fairly small, you can drive all the way up to it. You get to look down into the crater and see hot, bubbling lava, which to me is one of the absolute coolest things to do in Granada Nicaragua.
Read next: How to try volcano boarding in Nicaragua
6. Granada’s Parque Central
Parque Central is the heart of Granada, and it’s the perfect place for observing people in their daily life and just relax.
In general, Nicas are friendly people. If you look past the machismo or “macho” men and bossy women, people here are very helpful and chatty. That’s actually the main thing I preferred over Leon, where locals stared at us to a point where it got awkward and uncomfortable. In Granada, they are more used to tourists and also more welcoming.
7. Stroll down La Calzada
La Calzada, also known as Gringo Street, is a modern pedestrianised street with bars and touristy restaurants. It’s the place to go especially after dark where you’ll also find artisans, vendors and street performers.
I preferred it during the day, though, when it was more quiet and peaceful.
8. Shop at Masaya Mercado Municipal
The main market in Masaya, the Mercado Municipal, is a lively and colourful food and crafts market, that will show you the heart of the city and people.
You could also visit the Mercado de Artesanias, which sells typical Nicaraguan souvenirs, like vibrant woven blankets and small purses and sandals. It’s kind of overpriced, though, and also crowded, so I recommend the Mercado Municipal.
Masaya is an easy day trip from Granada. You can get there independently by chicken buses, which leave regularly from the bus terminal (close to Pali Supermarket) and stops right next to Masaya’s Mercado Municipal. A one-way ticket costs 10 cordobas ($0.36).
9. Try Nicaraguan food
Nicaraguan food is made up of rice and beans (gallo pinto), but there are lots of other foods to try. You should try the quesillos, which is a soft tortillas with cheese and sour cream or vigoron, pork with cabbage salad, wrapped in a banana leaf.
10. Get a chocolate massage
Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. You’ll get covered in chocolate, scrub it off and then enjoy a lovely massage afterwards. Granada is the place to get it ($34 for an hour).
11. Day trip to Laguna de Apoyo
One of the popular things to do in Granada Nicaragua is visiting Laguna de Apoya.
Laguna de Apoyo is a natural lake in a volcanic crater, just 30 minutes from Granada. You can go here to swim or do water sports, or
12. Day trip to Islets of Granada
An alternative to Laguna de Apoya is visiting the Islets of Granada, a series of 365 small islands in the middle of Lake Nicaragua that came from Mombacho’s last eruption.
You can rent a kayak or join a tour of las isletas, but just know that the tour includes a visit to a small island dubbed “Monkey Island” where they’ve stranded four monkeys and put up a high-voltage wire to keep them there. We didn’t know this when we joined a tour there, so just a heads up.
Why you shouldn’t take a horse-drawn carriage
Staying on the subject of animal welfare, you will inevitably see the horse-drawn carriages in Granada.
We walked by a row of horses at the main square, and I was very sad to see every single one of them horrifically thin, had untreated sores, and breathing heavily, even though they weren’t moving. It was pretty upsetting.
Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and access to basic services is a daily challenge for many. Much of the misuse of horses might not be intended by locals, but derives from lack of knowledge or means. Considering distances are so short in Granada, please reconsider if you really need a carriage and want to support this activity.
Is Nicaragua safe in 2023?
Granada is generally safe to visit. There’s always the issue of pickpocketing and scams (as in all other countries), but common sense will take you a long way:
- Don’t walk alone after dark
- Avoid flashing your belongings (expensive watch, camera and jewellery)
- Also, read my general travel safety tips and how to avoid common taxi scams, because much of it applies here as well
Local protests: Since 2018, Nicaragua has had outbreaks of violent protest against the government. The situation is more stable today (2023), and although protests still take place, they are rare and always prearranged with police forces around. If you decide to visit Nicaragua, my advice is to watch the news and avoid the protests if you happen to run into one.
Hotels in Granada Nicaragua
You have lots of options when it comes to great hotels in Granada Nicaragua. We stayed at Hotel Granada and couldn’t have picked a better place. The hotel is really lovely with comfortable air-conditioned rooms, perfectly located and a very relaxed environment.
Find the latest prices here: booking.com
How to get to Granada Nicaragua
Granada is at the south of Nicaragua, making it easy to reach by International bus from Costa Rica. From within Nicaragua, I recommend shuttle busses. A shuttle from Leon to Granada Nicaragua will cost from $15 per person and the journey takes 2.5 hours.
It’s easy to get a shuttle bus from Leon, San Juan del Sur or Managua to Granada Nicaragua. Simply ask at your hotel or one of the travel agencies. Shuttles are air-conditioned, safe and have friendly drivers; at least in my experience.
Getting to Granada from Costa Rica is also pretty straight-forward. Take one of the International bus lines like Ticabus. We traveled with them through all of Central America and always found them reliable and comfortable.
Looking for more things to do in Granada Nicaragua? Ask me anything in the comments!
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